Seattle crows are among the most famous of modern crows, owing to studies by John Marzluff which are featured in A Murder of Crows. This PBS Nature episode looks at Marzluff’s University of Washington (UW) research projects and the crows’ ability to recognize and remember human faces.
I’ve seen a few UW-banded crows around town, but they’re usually wheels up with a Cheeto before I can pull out my camera. The other day, I saw another one of these banded celebrities — bathing, foraging and preening with a huge flock of crows that often congregates at Seattle’s Lake Union before flying off to evening roosts. This time, the crows weren’t going anywhere. They had afternoon sun, placid waters, and all passing dogs safely restrained on leashes. It was a crow’s dream afternoon … even if it still amazes me that crows enjoy bathing on a 30-degree day.
This crow was digging up divots in the grass, looking, possibly, for grubs. The crow listened intently before each excavation, and crows do hear the sounds of grubs noshing. Note the flying chunk of lawn, upper right.
I shot this magic-hour image of the banded crow, and he pulled the old nictitating membrane trick on me as my shutter clicked. When my cat does this — sleeping with her eyes open, membranes twitching — I call her “ghost cat.” So, I guess it follows that this double-banded crow was ghost crow.
I reported the bands to the Seattle Crow Survey, even though I’m not sure how actively the bands are being traced. The last posted research results at the site are from 2004. I did my best to identify the colors for the online form (is that orange or red? Light blue or dark blue?). I also discovered that after 2003, researchers added two colored bands above the metal USFWS band on the left leg. This crow had one plastic band below the metal band, which leads me to believe that he or she may have been banded before 2003.
In doing some follow up research on the banding issue, I got distracted with this great video at TED — on the topic of crow intelligence. I’m not sure I agree with Klein’s conclusion about putting crows to work for us, but the crow vending machine he devised is testament to the intelligence we already know crows possess. Here’s the video. Klein is a good speaker, so it’s an easy watch.